The Beginning and the End

Almost 800 years ago, Thomas Aquinas confessed that "Every truth without exception—and whoever may utter it—is from the Holy Spirit." He couldn't have anticipated the great wisdom of his words for contemporary Christianity, for he spoke before the Reformation and the splintering of the Christian faith. And yet his words are more relevant and important now than ever.

Pentecost was, paradoxically, both the beginning and end of the church, for the Spirit descended upon individuals, within community. We are thus confronted with the difficult task of forming prophetic communities that encourage and support the gifts of the Spirit, as uniquely expressed by each individual. Within our churches, we struggle with the temptation to isolate spiritual authority in the hands of a few; within our societies, churches struggle against the temptation to declare themselves the only bearers of God's message and salvation. Neither struggle has been very successful.

As the author most focused on the work of the Holy Spirit and its role in the early community, Luke is uniquely qualified to illustrate this beautiful, complicated history. These tensions are not new—the disciples, too, were shocked to discover that God calls all people, even non-Jews, to community! Again and again, it is the most marginalized and the most "sinful" who are able to recognize Jesus, to believe, and to act on their beliefs. Those with the most social and spiritual authority are consistently reluctant, suspicious, and hesitant.

During the past 2,000 years, we have faithfully tried to create prophetic communities, guided by the Holy Spirit and determined to seek and proclaim truth, justice, mercy, and love to a troubled world. In these next eight weeks, may we be privileged to witness the work of the Holy One where we least expect it; may we have the courage to honor and act on the truth, "whoever may utter it."

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Sojourners Magazine May-June 2001
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